Adrenal carcinoma is a rare but aggressive type of cancer that affects the cortex of the adrenal gland. According to statistics, adrenocortical carcinoma has an incidence of about 1 to 2 per million population yearly. Adrenocortical carcinoma is associated with a lot of hormonal syndromes. This is because, normally, the adrenal gland is responsible for the production of a lot of hormones in the body. The growth of a tumor in this gland would lead to the excessive production and dangerous release of hormone levels in the body. The adrenal gland is positioned on top of the kidneys and plays a vital role in the endocrine system. Some of the syndromes associated with adrenocortical carcinoma include Cushing’s syndrome, Conn syndrome, virilization, and feminization, especially in men. This carcinoma has the ability to spread to other parts of the body. This process is known as metastasis. Adrenocortical carcinoma has often invaded surrounding tissues and even organs that are distant from the adrenal gland. This disease is quite dangerous, however, the earlier it’s diagnosed, the better the prognosis. The overall survival rate is low, at about 20-35%. There are hopes that doctors can buy stem cells online for the treatment of adrenal cancer in the future.
What Are The Types Of Adrenocortical Carcinoma?
Adrenocortical carcinomas can be divided into two types. These are functioning tumors, and nonfunctioning tumors.
- Functioning tumors: This is a tumor in which there is an increase in the production of adrenal hormones. People with functioning tumors do experience increased production of hormones such as cortisol, sex hormones like testosterone, aldosterone and so on.
- Nonfunctioning tumors: In this kind of a tumor, there is no increase in the production of hormones. The majority of tumors on the adrenal gland are not malignant.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Adrenocortical Carcinoma?
The signs and symptoms of adrenocortical carcinoma depend on the type of hormones that are being produced. This medical condition does present in different forms in children and adults. The majority of adrenocortical carcinoma in children are functional. This is why the symptoms presented by children include virilization, Cushing’s syndrome and so on. On the other hand, adults do present with hormonal syndromes, the most predominant of them is the Cushing syndrome. Below are some of the presentations of adrenocortical carcinoma;
- Testosterone and other male sex hormones: Patients would present with an increase in the amount of facial and body hair. This is usually more pronounced in females. Females affected by this disease might also present with a deepened voice.
- Estrogen and other female sex hormones: This is more prominent in children. They’d present with early signs of puberty. On the hand, males affected by this disease might present with enlarged breast tissues.
- Aldosterone: This hormone is primarily responsible for the regulation of sodium and potassium levels. However, patients with this tumor do have excessive levels of aldosterone. This eventually leads to high blood pressure, due to the conservation of sodium ions in the body. Also, patients might add more weight than normal.
- Cortisol: This is one of the main hormones produced by the adrenal gland. The tumor of the adrenal cortex leads to the excessive production of cortisol, which results in high blood sugar, and increased blood pressure. In addition, patients might also experience weakness in the muscles of the legs. Other symptoms include the bruising in the body, accumulation of fat, especially in the abdomen and the chest.
- Cushing’s syndrome: This is one of the most common syndromes in both functioning and non-functioning tumors. The syndrome is associated with the increased level of cortisol in the body, due to the excessive production by a tumor. Some of the signs and symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome include fatty hump in the back, round and moon face, stretch marks on the skin. Other symptoms include increased blood pressure, skin disorders such as acne, loss of bone density, reduced sexual drive, decreased fertility, erectile dysfunction and diabetes mellitus.
What Are the Causes Of Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma?
The exact cause of adrenal cortical carcinoma isn’t known yet. However, the cancer of the adrenal cortex can also be due to secondary causes. This occurs when cancer spreads from another location in the body to the adrenal glands.
Who Is At Risk Of Developing Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma?
There are some factors that increase the risk of developing adrenal cortical carcinoma. Some of these risks are;
- Gender: According to research, it has been observed that adrenal cortical carcinoma tends to occur more in females. Although it also in males, it’s just more prevalent in the female gender.
- Age: Age also plays a role in the development of this disease. It has been noted that the adrenal cortical carcinoma occurs more in people between the ages of 40 and 50. In addition, children below the age of 5, also have a high risk of developing this disease.
- Heredity: There are some hereditary diseases that can affect the adrenal gland, increasing the risk of developing tumors.
- Secondary disease: As earlier mentioned, a lot of cases of adrenal cortical carcinoma is due to the spread of cancer from another part of the body to the adrenal gland.
How Is Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma Diagnosed?
To diagnose this disease, the physician would have to conduct a physical examination of the patient. Subsequently, the doctor would decide if the patient needs any further laboratory test, to check the hormone levels. To do this, the doctor might collect samples of the blood, urine or saliva. Other tests that might be conducted include the computed tomography scan, the magnetic resonance imaging, and the positron emission tomography. A biopsy is also done to confirm if a tumor is cancerous or not.
How Is Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma Treated?
The treatment of this disease depends on the severity and stage of the disease. Other factors physicians consider include the condition, gender, age and the overall health of the patient. Examples of the treatment procedures used include chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery and biologic therapy.
Stem Cell Therapy
Scientists are presently working on understanding how cancer stem cells contribute to relapse and resistance to treatments. This is important to creating an effective therapy for the treatment of adrenal cancer.
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